The leaves are changing colors, it’s getting cooler outside and everyone has started planning their Halloween costumes. You know what that means. Midterms. Professors have decided to take three months’ worth of material and jam it into a one-hour-long exam. Exciting right? Not really. But don’t worry. I have come up with this great guide to help you study for these dreaded exams.
Read on to learn some great study tips to help you ace your midterms:
1. Study in chunks
If you can sit still for an hour straight and focus on one thing, I applaud you because that is something I cannot do. So comes the idea of studying in bite-size chunks. There are two ways to go about this. The first is to organize what you need to study in parts and only study one part at a time and take a break. The other way you might choose to do this is by giving yourself a time limit.
“Studying in chunks was what helped me most. Study 15 to 30 minutes and take a break for 20 to 30 minutes. And repeat. Gives the brain time to absorb the information,” Indian River State College graduate Christopher Williams said.
You can time these breaks however you like. If you think you can pack 45 minutes of studying in one session with only a 15-minute break, then go for it. If you’re more like me and can’t focus for that long, don’t feel bad if you have to study for shorter amounts at a time and take shorter breaks. It’s important to do what works for you. As Williams mentions, this method proves a great way to help your brain absorb the information you study. I’ve found if I sit too long and stare at something, I stop paying attention. I’ll end up reading the same paragraph over and over. If you find yourself doing this as well, you might want to use this time for a nice, relaxing break.
2. Take a step back
Studying for exams, especially for courses like math, chemistry or physics that require problem-solving skills, can prove frustrating. Frustration usually just makes trying to solve problems even more difficult. Most people I know don’t enjoy having to solve these problems for homework, let alone using a study guide for problems that won’t even be graded. Don’t let these problems discourage you. Take your frustration as a sign that you might need to take a step back.
“If you are getting frustrated, step back and take a long break. Sometimes, letting the problem work itself out subconsciously helps,” Williams said. “You will get nowhere if you can’t think straight. The break should be something fun and distracting from my experience.”
Just sitting and staring at a problem you can’t solve and becoming more frustrated won’t help you solve the problem any faster. So, walk away and take a break. Do something you enjoy or something that relaxes you. Maybe watch an episode of your favorite TV show or get a cup of tea. Take some time to let yourself calm down and relax. Then go back and try to tackle that problem.
3. Take handwritten notes
There are so many benefits to taking notes by hand. First, it helps with memorization. When you take notes by hand, you tend to pay more attention to the material because you are essentially rewriting it in a way that’s easier for you to remember. Another great thing about this note-taking method is that you can use them as a study guide because, usually, you only write down pertinent information. This allows you the luxury of not having to go back and reread the entire textbook. Also, when you have handwritten notes for classes like psychology or biology that require a lot of memorization of terms, you can easily make flashcards. Flashcards are a great way to help you get through a lot of terms quickly. I would definitely suggest this method for a quicker way to get through studying.
4. Eat healthy
While eating healthy is important all the time, you’ll want to keep your focus and energy levels up while studying. We all love our Red Bull, and it can be great for a quick rush of energy. But inevitably, it will cause you to crash, which won’t help you in the long run. Try to eat fruits, veggies and whole grains. These will help give you the energy you need without the crash. I think we can all also relate to anxiety before midterms. Foods that contain zinc, like avocados, certain nuts and blueberries, can help lower your stress level. Don’t forget to add protein to your pre-midterm diet. Protein keeps you full so you don’t get distracted by cravings while you’re trying to focus. Like I said, one Red Bull is okay; just don’t overdo it.
5. Study with a group
Studying with a group proves a great way to keep you on track. You can find yourself easily distracted when you study alone. I can almost guarantee that you are probably reading this article on your phone right now. We can’t help it. Social media is distracting. Whether you study with a group from class or with some friends, this can help keep you on track. That is, as long as you don’t go off-topic into an exciting conversation.
I know you may be wondering why I would encourage you to exercise while studying for your midterms. I didn’t consider this tip myself until someone else mentioned it. Research shows that physical exercise releases proteins in the brain that can actually help improve your memory and increase your cognitive performance. Who knew? This method can help if you find yourself stuck on a problem or even if you’re just reviewing a study guide.
“Exercising helps form ideas. If you’re stuck on a problem, the endorphins from exercise help the thinking process,” Williams said. “Reviewing study material while exercising helps, too. I’ve done that a lot when I study course material.”
I suggest my new favorite exercise, the Bose Ball. It’s flat on one side, and the other side is half of a big bouncy ball. You stand on it and try to balance on either side. Obviously, the flat side is more difficult because you are standing on half of a bouncy ball. Some other good ways to exercise and study are while cycling or walking on a treadmill. So, if you find yourself not absorbing information, stuck on a problem or even getting restless, maybe try to do some light exercise while you study. It could be more helpful than you expect!
7. Don’t rely only on study guides
I don’t know about you, but relying on only a study guide has tricked me more than once. That is why they refer to it as a “guide.” Usually, these guides will only focus on the main points you covered in class. Your professor will surely add some sneaky terms or problems you won’t expect if you only rely on the guides. Make sure you look over the notes you took in class. A lot of times, professors add material they went over that wasn’t in the book, and you won’t find it in the study guide. Don’t get caught off guard when these questions show up on the exam.
8. Study exactly how you plan to take the exam
I learned this trick from my Psych 101 professor. The words she actually used were, “If you study in your bed hopped up on Adderall, plan to take your exam in your bed hopped up on Adderall.” As you likely won’t take your exam this way, I suggest you go to the library or somewhere similar to the classroom where you will take your exam. This trick is great to help recall information come exam time.
9. Replay lectures
This method is great for auditory learners. It proves especially helpful for anyone studying something like English or philosophy, where your exams have more to do with analyzing texts than problem-solving. Another great part of this method is that you can listen to lectures almost anywhere. I like to listen to them when I take my walks. Replaying lectures is a great way to multitask while studying.
“As an online student through Uber Eats, I do a lot of driving. I drive with an iPad open to the learning materials page. There, I listen to lectures. I also heavily rely on Speechify. I convert all readings to audio,” Arizona State University junior Jaron Hinterlong said. “Over my weekends near midterms, I make sure to replay all lectures and Speechified textbooks on repeat.”
As Hinterlong mentions, Speechify is another great option. Speechify, an AI platform, allows you to turn text into a natural-sounding voice. Essentially, you can replay your textbooks to yourself over and over again. The best part of having the ability to listen to your lectures and textbooks? You can take them everywhere you go. You can listen while you’re driving, exercising or even while lying in your bed.
It’s only midterms! Just think, this means the semester is halfway over and as soon as you finish, you get two weeks off for fall break. Not to mention, it’s almost Halloween. I guarantee if you follow these tips, you’ll pass your exams easy peasy. Just walk into that classroom with a sense of confidence and take a deep breath. You got this!